By Jack Stubbs
The University of Washington’s East Campus, an area of the University that is home to many of the institution’s athletic and recreational facilities, is set for significant changes in the months ahead as the in-the-works 2018 Campus Master Plan (CMP) is put into effect.
The changes occurring on East Campus are part of a larger renovation of the 700-acre University that will include up to 86 potential development sites throughout the University of Washington’s campus. In total, there are up to 6 million net new gross square feet of development in the works across the four campus sectors (Central, West, South and East).
Of the broader 6 million square foot redevelopment project, there are up to 750,000 net new gross square feet of development planned for East campus. The campus sector currently houses a variety of recreational spaces including the Union Bay Natural Area, athletics facilities, and parking to support sporting events and campus commuters.
Much of East campus sits on a methane-producing brownfield site, a logistical issue that adds a unique financial and practical challenge to building there, according to Theresa Doherty, senior project director of the 2018 CMP. “The issue with East Campus is that it would be a very expensive and difficult area to build on, because it’s on an old city landfill,” she said. However, in spite of this consideration, there are a number of redevelopment opportunities across the campus sector. “We did come up with a long-term vision [for East campus], and there’s quite a lot of development capacity where the parking lot was and the golf driving range is,” Doherty added.
Doherty thinks that, even though East campus presents a logistical challenge for redevelopment, it also represents an opportunity for a more thorough revamping of the campus sector. “The whole concept of developing on a landfill is obviously a challenge…it’ll be an engineering issue, but we [will] certainly get through and it can be done,” she said. “The East Campus in a sense is more of a clean slate, because there aren’t a lot of other buildings there.”
According to the CMP, some of the goals for East campus include improving connections between East and Central campus—where there are 900,000 square feet of net new gross square feet of development planned—and transform the former brownfield site into a desirable campus area. The East campus sector is also right on the edge of Union Bay, and the CMP hopes to balance public realm and open space along the waterfront with significant development opportunities.
Another of the goals is to preserve the existing athletic facilities on the site—Husky Stadium, for example, is in East campus—while also recognizing the potential for new uses, according to Doherty. “East Campus is where we have our athletic village and the open parking lot…but long-term, we think that could be a space where we could build out for certain academic uses,” she said.
Looking ahead, the hope is that the redevelopment of East campus will improve connectivity and connections from a pedestrian perspective as well. “In designing the long-term vision, we created the central overpass with a series of pedestrian pathways so that l people could walk through the center of buildings that are much more friendly for pedestrians and bikes than Montlake Ave,” Doherty said. Additionally, one of the goals with East campus is to create a new north-south pedestrian-only connection between the Intramural Activities Building (IMA) and the intramural fields to the north.
There is also an emphasis on preserving and connecting open space elements in East campus, specifically the Union Bay Natural Area, which contains preserved shoreline wetlands and recreational space. Another of the objectives is to improve the pedestrian experience along the Burke-Gilman trail, which runs adjacent to East campus, and integrate various new open spaces and courtyards into the campus area. Additionally, the hope is that any new development will not impact the Mt. Rainier view corridor.
There are five distinct development zones and 29 potential development sites throughout East Campus, according to the CMP, several of which relate to the redevelopment of existing athletic and recreational facilities. Some of the larger potential developments include Tennis Court Site West of IMA Field, a mixed-use 235,000 square, foot 4-story structure; Laurel Village West, a 195,000, 2-story building; and Golf Driving Range Site North, a 6-story, 355,000 square foot building that would be used for academic and industry partnership/manufacturing uses. Other potential developments include Blakely Village East, a 4-story 120,000 square foot facility, and Plant Services Site, an 85,800 square foot structure that would require the demolition of an existing 144,200 square foot academic building.
And while the CMP identifies 29 potential development projects throughout East Campus, not all of these undertakings will ultimately come to fruition: the CMP planning team originally identified twice as many potential development sites and twice as much square footage in the CMP to enable flexibility for the institution’s academic and athletic departments moving forward.
Ultimately, none of the sites on East Campus—or throughout any of the other three campus sectors—will be developed unless the academic departments have the funds to do so, according to Doherty. “As those funds come along, then those more serious discussions will start happening about which building sites might be the first to be considered or built on,” she said, also emphasizing that the current plans only indicate a broader long-term vision for the University. Each year, the University applies for funds from the state for construction of development projects and then begins the design process.
The plans for East campus—and the larger campus-wide redevelopment in the works—will continue to take shape over the coming months. The planning committee for the CMP is currently waiting to hear back from the City Council regarding the plan, and hearing examiner Sue Tanner issued her report on the current plans in mid-January, 2018.
The next stage of the process is for City Council to consider and evaluate the current CMP, according to Doherty, a process that will occur sometime in May or June of 2018. While no meeting date has yet been set, the City Council will hold a hearing and will then pass legislation to approve the CMP. Once the Council and the Board of Regents have agree on a final plan, the CMP will be approved and implemented by the University, who hopes to have approval for the overall plan by summer of 2018.